Close but no cigar once again. He’s clearly one of the strongest and fastest riders in the Tour de France, but Peter Sagan was again outfoxed on the eleventh stage of the Tour de France and left hugely frustrated afterwards.

The Cannondale Pro Cycling rider was strong in the finale and got up to lone leader Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) with 4.5 kilometres remaining; also there were Michael Rogers (Tinkoff Saxo Bank) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Sagan is the quickest of those four and would almost certainly have won a sprint had the quartet reached the line; however, as he pushed the pace and controlled the others’ attacks, Gallopin took a breather and then jumped clear once more with 2.5 kilometres remaining.

Sagan saw the danger and led the chase. However he got limited support from the others and they were reeled in before the line. He had enough left in the tank to take ninth, but was angry afterwards that things didn’t work out better.

“It’s a strange situation because I was in a good situation for winning,” he said afterwards. “But when I was at the front with Kwiatkowski, Gallopin and Rogers, nobody wanted to work with me. They know it’s hard to beat me in a sprint.

“Rogers attacked, then Kwiatkowski… I can’t look after everyone. I was hoping to win for my girlfriend’s birthday but I got the flowers with the green jersey so I’ve got something to offer her.”

He has had both a remarkable and also a frustrating first half of the Tour. He finished second on stage one into Leeds, then placed fourth, second, fourth, fourth, fifth and second in the next six stages. The run of results marked the first time since Charles Pélissier in 1930 that a rider took seven top-five finishes in the first seven stages of the Tour de France.

That plus his intermediate sprint consistency have left him with a staggering 137 point lead in the green jersey competition, almost twice the total of the next-best rider Bryan Coquard (Europcar). It means he looks well on course to win his third consecutive Maillot Vert.

However he very much wants a stage win too. He’s taken four thus far in his career and is chasing more to add to that.

“I’m confident. I’ll try my best,” he said. “I’m sick of coming second. But it’s difficult every day. Everybody knows me.”

Sagan is limited in the high mountains but he has another chance Thursday on the stage to Saint Étienne. It includes a smattering of third and fourth category climbs and should be sufficiently tough to weed out some of the pure sprinters.

He still faces the problem of riders marking him, however; that might be as tough a battle to handle as the jagged-tooth profile of the stage.